Writing in Public, Story 6, Scene 7
By the time Randy returned home, he was ready to flop on a couch with a beer and zone out. He hadn’t expected that seeing the newest Chandler would be such a roller coaster ride—though he had to admit to himself, it was a ride he was happy to be on.
His house was a two-bedroom bungalow on the west side of town. He was one of the only Southworths to move off the family estate, out of what he called “the welfare house.” They all lived off the trust fund, and he lived off fifty decades of painting. He’d liked the bungalow. It had a craftsman feel that appealed to his masonry background. It also had a detached room in the backyward that he he used for his art studio.
Molly walked faster, stretching the leash out, in anticipation of ‘home.’
A figure detached itself from the shadows around the big oak in the front yard.
Randy caught his breath. Father. Damn. News traveled fast.
Molly barked at Father, then sat, not wagging her tail. She’d never liked him. If a dog could frown, Molly was doing it now.
Like all the Southworths, Charles Southworth had reached the magic thirty-seven and stopped aging. Unfortunately, he’d also started balding before that happened. No gray, but no hair either. At various times, he’d tried growing a beard, but he had one of those types that came in looking like he didn’t shave and never got better. He was wearing a white dress shirt and pleated pants and a cologne that should have long ago been phased out.
“You ought to mow your damn lawn,” he said.
Randy automatically glanced at it, then caught himself. There wasn’t anything wrong with the lawn. It just wasn’t that perfect green carpet that a lot of houses had. The grass was nubby and unevenly colored.
“You come here to complain about my gardening abilities, Father?” Randy asked.
He knelt and unclipped Molly’s leash, giving her a light push on the rump. The dog glanced at him, then took off around the corner of the house. There was a gentleman dog who lived next door, and they always exchanged sniffs.
Father said, “You were with the Chandler woman earlier.” Flat. Accusatory.
Randy stood, coiling up the leash. “Saw her while I was walking Molly. I didn’t stay long. I heard on the grapevine that her family is talking about selling the house. What do we do if that happens?”
Randy didn’t hide the unease in his voice. He remembered when all seven houses had stood proud, the music a comforting concert. Now it was like a harp with broken strings that was still being played anyway.
“That’s their business.” Sharp. The finger he had used often to punctuate his points came out, stabbing at Randy. “And don’t lie. I know you talked to her again. We stay out of their business. We do not talk to them. We do not help them. Am I clear?”
“Or what?” Randy said, very quietly. Tension thrummed in his jaw.
“You’ll cause a rift in the family if you associate with that woman.”
Randy turned the term over on his tongue, not liking the taste of it. Not one bit. He’d lied about the cold to Nikki. He’d stopped going past the house because Father had ordered him to.
When did it stop?
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